Brittany Lynch Presents: Stepqueen by The Whole Stepfamily

If you follow me on Instagram @thestepqueen then you might have seen a Story I did last week where I asked a question about your experience as a stepmom. If you don’t follow me on Instagram @thestepqueen then what the heck! Make it happen! Get on over there, follow, send me a DM, say hey. But if you already ARE following along, then you might recall that I put up a poll last week and asked,

True or False. One of the biggest wishes I have as a stepmom is to STOP feeling like I’m an outsider to “their family.” I wish it just felt like “our family.”

And y’all, that story blew up. I had so many people respond yes, true… so many folks messaging about it. So I decided I really should step up and lend my thoughts on the subject so that you can feel like your home is your home and your stepfamily is your stepfamily. 

Aside from the Blended Family Blueprint: a free online event happening really soon, where I’ll be helping you discover what specifically Happily Ever After looks like to you, because it looks different for everyone. And very often as humans we tend to know what we don’t want in life, but not many of us have any clear direction as to what we do want. What do you want your blended family to look like? How will YOU know when you’ve arrived at happily ever after?

And on top of getting super clear on what that’ll look like for you, I’ll help you craft a plan to get there… so that’ll be coming up really soon, that’s the Blended Family Blueprint. But aside from that, I also wanted to write this post for you.

Why? Because…

Stepmotherhood is almost synonymous with outsider.

Us versus them. Their family with us stuck on as an afterthought. And that’s a really uncomfortable place to live in.

I remember one fight I had with my husband, I was like, how is it possible that an 8 year old has more say about this house than I do? How is it possible that a woman who doesn’t even LIVE here has more say about this house than I do? It’s so frustrating isn’t it?

Your home should be your sanctuary, your safe place. And isn’t it true that the people you share your home with should, at the very least, respect each other? Feel equal? Feel accepted, seen, valued? Because that’s how someday one day you can actually get to a place where you’re like wow we did it fam we blended…

I’m going to give you a few targets to work toward to know that you have, in fact, blended, a few bullseyes to aim toward for if you want to feel like their family is our family… but first, I want to explain WHY this outsider situation happens.

So you know, Chances are pretty good that, if you are in a relationship with a partner who has kids, there has probably been a  time or two over the course of your stepmom journey where you became very aware of the fact that your spouse and the kids and their other parent existed as a family unit before you came into the picture. 

In a nuclear family, or a first family, one of the defining characteristics is that the couple pre-dates the kids. In a stepfamily though, the kids pre-date the couple.

So what do I mean by that? Well, even if a couple were to get pregnant the very first time that they met, they would still have 9 months of getting to know each other before the baby came into the picture.

Not only that, but, the biological parents both begin to bond with the kids at the same time as the kids begin to bond with the parents. Attachments form, and so on and so forth. History is created. But there’s a very specific timeline where the parents will have known each other for at least 9 months before their baby comes into the world. The couple pre-dates the kids.

But in a stepfamily, obviously one of the defining characteristics is that, the romantic relationship is formed after this initial family system has formed. You met or got involved with your spouse romantically AFTER they already had kids. The children pre-date the couple.

Now I know there are all sorts of nuances and individual experiences and I know I’m speaking in very large generalities here, but more often than not, this is a characteristic. And this means that a lot of the time, there will be memories of holidays and vacations and birthdays that the first family spent together. There will be memories of the way one of the parents used to always make pancakes on Sundays while the other parent squeezed fresh orange juice.

And for a lot of us, when the kids or your spouse talk about these memories, if you’re like most stepmoms, then you might notice a little bit of a sting when these pre-you memories are brought up. These reminders that your spouse had a whole other life once upon a time.

This also means that, if you do notice that sting when the kids talk about that Christmas a few years back where their parents surprised them with a trip to Disney, or you do feel a sense of loss or grief about the fact that your partner has already been there done that with someone else, one of the reasons is because of this characteristic of stepfamilies: the kids pre-date the couple in a stepfamily. (Enter: The reason for feeling like an outsider.)

But now, even THOUGH your spouse and stepkids existed in a family system before you came into their lives, and even THOUGH there is bound to be some sadness or anger or grief over that, and even THOUGH you might wonder why you don’t feel the same way about your stepkids as your spouse feels about them, and even THOUGH everything you are feeling is totally normal and valid, what kind of mentor would I be if I just said, well, that’s the way it is so deal with it? I remember in my early stepmom days when I’d read literature and forums, that was one of the pieces of advice that made me absolutely want to scream. The, well you knew your partner had kids already so either suck it up or leave. This is the way it is.

Not today satan.

That is in fact not the only solution. In what universe does someone want to live in a household where they feel unseen and unheard and like the old history is overshadowing the present and future… like if that’s you that’s cool but it certainly isn’t me. In fact that was one of the biggest reasons I started stepqueen… because there is a better way.

Even THOUGH you might sometimes feel like your stepfamily is THEIR family, and you just want it to feel like OUR family, even though this is super, duper, duper common among stepmoms, doesn’t mean that the despair you might feel over it is just part of the package.

Hear me say that: Just because you are living through a common experience that many stepmoms share does NOT mean that you have to resign yourself to the fact that this is the way you’re bound to be feeling forever. Just because so many stepmoms share this experience or being outsiders does not mean that has to be the way it is.

In fact, one of the biggest mistakes many stepmoms are making is simply believing that they’re “outsiders.”

Telling yourself that you’re an outsider isn’t doing you any favours.

And as a stepmom myself, trust me, I get it. NOTHING can prepare you for life in a stepfamily, NOTHING can prepare you for the rollercoaster of emotions you’ll experience. And hear me say this — no, you most definitely did NOT know what you were signing up for when you got into a relationship with someone who already had kids, even if you’d done it before. Every dynamic is different, period. It is not your fault, not your spouse’s fault, not the kids’ fault, and not the other parent’s fault. Stepfamilies are hard, man. 

And speaking from the perspective of stepmom — between taking on so many parenting responsibilities without having the same rights or getting the same respect as a biological parent; having your schedule dictated by other people, some of those people maybe people you don’t like all that much; and living with that looming feeling of being second-place or runner-up, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of feeling it’s “their family” and you’re just an afterthought…

But, lean in here, let me ask you a question. Does every stepmom who believes she’s an outsider actually end up creating a family that feels like she’s a part of it too?

Telling yourself you’re an outsider when you want to be an insider is like telling yourself you’re a doctor when you want to be a lawyer.

What you focus on, grows. And everything you have in life is a direct result of the beliefs you carry around with you, whether or not you’re conscious of those beliefs right now.

And listen, a belief, is just a thought you keep thinking. If you keep telling yourself, I’m an outsider I’m an outsider I’m an outsider, then how could anyone expect to see anything different than that? And hey, this isn’t your fault. This is just the way the brain works, ok? The way the mind works. It notices an issue and it wants to fix that issue. Unfortunately though most people are using broken strategies by thinking about the problem over and over again rather than giving their attention to the solution.

But if you keep giving all your attention to the problem, if you keep thinking over and over and over again I’m an outsider I don’t belong I’m second place I’m runner up… then guess what… your wish is your command.

If you really WANT to create a happily blended family. If you really WANT to feel like an insider. If you really WANT their family to become our family, then listen in to hear what I have to say:

If you want to create a happily blended family, where THEIR family can feel like YOUR family, doesn’t it make more sense to focus your attention on how to make that happen?

Do you know what every happy, thriving, confident stepmom has in common? The thriving stepmom who feels confident in her role, who feels like part of the family, who never questions for one second if she is less important than her partner’s first life… She knows something that maybe even you have forgotten.

The thriving, confident stepmom knows that, everything she has in life is a direct reflection of what she believes she is worthy of in life.

Let me say that again.

The thriving, confident stepmom knows that, everything she has in life is a direct reflection of what she believes she is worthy of in life.

It feels bad to think about how much of an outsider you are, because the truest highest version of yourself KNOWS that you are worthy of feeling loved and cherished and included. And if you currently do not feel loved and cherished and included, it’s time to get really curious about your conscious and subconscious belief patterns.

Whether you realize this now or later, your stepfamily is a gift. Stepfamilies have a way of shining a big bright light on every pattern we have in our lives that is no longer serving us. And what a gift you’re giving yourself, to allow yourself to get curious about those patterns, and get curious about your beliefs. Most stepmoms never become happy stepmoms because they never do this sort of inner work.

Most stepfamily relationships end in separation because most people want to blame their partners and the kids and the kids other parent for how they feel.

Is it hard to question when and why and where your beliefs formed? Yes. Is it also hard to live in a household you want to run away from but don’t because you’re pretty sure nobody would even notice if you left? Also yes. But you get to choose your hard. And only one of those will result in personal growth and eventually, freedom.

So let me ask you, are you going to keep focusing your energy and attention on all the milestones you weren’t a part of, all the Disney trips you weren’t around for, all the ways you don’t get respect and your voice isn’t heard… or, are you going to invite this discomfort as an opportunity to get to know yourself on a very beautiful, deep, authentic level?

The choice is yours. Just know that, until these patterns are illuminated and identified and untangled, they’ll keep popping up over and over and over again.

Now, at the beginning of this post, I told you I’d give you a few targets to work toward to know that you’re no longer an outsider, and have in fact blended. So if you do want to consider a few bullseyes to aim toward if you want to feel like their family is your family, then I’d invite you to ask yourself how each of these feels for you, and choose the ones that feel aligned. You might identify with all of these targets, a few, or maybe none at all. That’s okay. The important part is that you begin to direct your energy and attention toward an end-goal that feels good, rather than toward how hard everything feels.

I’ll know our stepfamily has blended when I…

Feel safe, loved & respected within the walls of my home

Approach difficult situations with compassion

Acknowledge that I don’t have to agree with someone or something in order to express empathy

Am more concerned about authenticity than appeasement

Embrace conflict as an opportunity for self-reflection

Release others from expectations I have not clearly communicated

Consistently set and uphold boundaries that are for my own well-being

I want you to notice that absolutely nowhere on that list were there mentions of things like, the kids will call me mom. Everyone will say please and thank you all the time. My spouse’s ex will show some damn appreciation for everything I do for THEIR kids.

Often, the image we’ve painted in our minds about what a happily blended family should look like are based in old belief patterns that we’ve never taken a look at. These visions also usually require other people to change in order to make us comfortable.

Living in a stepfamily is hard. Changing yourself is hard. But changing other people is impossible, and usually temporary. Changing the past is impossible, and spending time and energy and emotional labour thinking about shoulda woulda coulda and if only I met my partner first is a broken strategy.

There are so many ways to create a stepfamily life that feels really fulfilling and beautiful. It might not look anything like you once thought it would. But the best stories always have a surprise ending.

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